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Baylor College of Medicine expert shares tips to avoid children's excess screen time this school year

Marisol Gallagher

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HOUSTON, TX — Many children may be overdoing their daily screen time after spending so much time in front of gadgets throughout the pandemic. This can lead to serious health issues, and of course, that’s the last thing parents would hope to happen. A dietitian from Baylor College of Medicine explained the risk of too much screen time while also mapping out a new routine for children so that they can cut their screen time.

According to Alicia Beltran, a research dietitian at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, spending too much time on gadgets such as phones and laptops can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Children can become less and less active, ultimately gaining unwanted weight.

“If kids aren’t moving, they might have an increased risk of gaining weight,” she said. “Being overweight or obese can lead to chronic diseases, such as diabetes or increased blood pressure. Encourage kids to take breaks from the screen. Parents need to set the example by taking a break from it as well.”

Implementing a routine that includes breaks from the screen, physical activity, and family time, is a good way to fix this problem.

With physical activity, have your child step outside for a brief moment before school so that they can be exposed to natural light. Just a few minutes outdoors can help the circadian rhythm and lead the way for a better day and a good night’s sleep.

If your child is still spending their school day at home, learning virtually, it’s a good idea to take small breaks in-between their classes to go outside or do something different that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. They must also have a scheduled time for meals so that they don’t end up overeating or snacking.

It is also a good idea to enroll children in extracurricular activities or sports to encourage them to spend more time being active physically. Along the same line, set a certain bedtime to ensure your child has a good circadian rhythm. Make sure to turn off all electronics around 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

Lastly, it wouldn’t hurt to have screen time that is actually good for the family. Every week or so, gather your child or children with the whole family to watch something together. This is a good way to engage with them so that they don’t end up isolated with their own screen.

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